The heavyhanded education reform machine, by which I mean both the federal Department of Education and the corporate education business machine that’s led by the Bill Gates/Pearson folks, could never get away with what they are getting away with, taking over public education, testing, privacy, and the direction of textbook alignment nationwide, if the average American understood –and demanded– his/her constitutional rights.
1. There’s the right to representation.
Remember the rallying cry of the American colonists against Mother England in the 1700′s? No Taxation Without Representation. I don’t see many people carrying signs down at the Capitol today that read, “No Education Without Representation.” Yet, under Common Core, we have no representation. Putting aside for a moment* the fact that it’s constitutionally illegal to even have nationalized education in this country– if it was legal, it should at least be representative! But the copyrighted Common Core standards are written behind closed doors by private, unelected groups (NGA and CCSSO) that have no public accountability and are not subject to the laws to which elected groups (like Congress) are subject. The two groups are tricky; for example, using the official sounding name of National Governors’ Association (NGA) one group fooled most of us into believing that they were a representative, legitimate governing group. No. NGA has some governors as members, but it is a private group with zero accountability to you or me.
We weren’t represented when our legislatures were bypassed and our states adopted Common Core as part of a grant application signed by only two Utahns.
And we weren’t represented when the money and influence of Bill Gates (not a public vote) produced the whole Common Core, partially by bribing the national PTA and countless other influencers to call this “state-led” and to call it good for kids. Even though it never was.
2. There’s the 10th Amendment* which we are now taking back.
It says that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states, to the people! That means that education is reserved to the states, to the people. There is no such thing as accountability to the Department of Education– unless we stupidly accept grants with strings attached, from that department. Then we are accountable to whatever we agreed to under the conditions of the grant.
3. There’s the right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Many people still don’t realize that unreasonable searches are happening electronically, using schools to collect personal and family information about individual students. And too many of those who do realize it, are unalarmed.
As NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden recently explained, “The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change… People will know the lengths to which government is going to grant themselves powers– unilaterally– to create greater control over American society and global society but they won’t be willing to take the risk necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interest…. the only thing that restricts surveillance activities are policy… They’ll say that because of the dangers… we need more authority… it will be turn-key tyranny.” (see minute 10:48)
4. There’s the right to pursue happiness.
–Not the right for groups to take away others’ happiness or rearrange the happiness distribution of citizens.
The pursuit of happiness for teachers and students is being threatened by new plans for the redistribution of teachers and of wealth, wrapped up in the education reforms that we’re all having rammed down our throats.
If you read the Executive Summary of Race to the Top, (RTTT was the original grant contest that lured states into the Common Core movement) you will see this on page 3:
(D)(3) Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals.
What will this look like?
As one teacher recently noted:
“I can’t make teachers understand that the equitable distribution of effective teachers mean that they get moved if they do a good job. Principals don’t get this either. They will no longer have the ability to retain their best teachers. They will be placed. I can just imagine, a teacher does a good job and has high test scores, so her reward is to be placed in a failing school and as a bonus, she will now be deemed a “leader” charged with extra responsibilities on her new PLC team. That won’t possibly cause problems, will it? And what about the people who move into a certain attendance area because they like the teachers and principals? Schools will become revolving doors with no stability or consistency. We will be on a hamster wheel forever. Well, maybe when principals find out they will lose their best and brightest, they might stop drinking the Kool-aid. They’ve been fed a dribble of this for years and now they just accept it! By the way, this includes them as well. They will be rewarded by being moved to a turnaround government-run school… They have to begin actively recruiting minorities and start hiring a certain amount. No longer the best teacher for the job, but the best minority who might not be as good as [another] applicant. What happened to opportunity for all? When I interview for a job, I would like to think that I get a fair shot.”
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are founding American rights. Redistribution of wealth and redistribution of teachers is totally un-American.
Shine light on Common Core
By Donna Colorio
As I see it, our country is going through a major educational transformation and I ask myself, “Where are the parents?”
In 2010, a D.C.-based nonprofit called Achieve, under the guidance of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, created what is now known as the “Common Core” standards. It appears that the goal is to create standardized learning throughout our country.
I hope this makes you ask yourself, “What is the Common Core?”
In my opinion, the lack of transparency is disturbing. In May 2008, The Gates Foundation started funding the promotion of the Common Core standards. In December 2008, the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve released their report “Benchmarking for Success.”
The first draft of the Common Core grade level standards was released to states in November 2009. The first public draft followed, on March 10, 2010. By that time, 40 states had already applied for Race to the Top phase-one grant funding.
If the new and largely untested Common Core standards were not adopted by a state by Aug. 1, 2010, the state would lose crucial points in Round 2.
Massachusetts applied for Race to the Top funds by the Jan. 19, 2010, round one deadline. Our Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core state standards that July, with a goal to be fully implemented in 2013-14.
Just like that, essentially brand new curricular standards had re-oriented 17 years of curricular development and MCAS alignment, which had evolved in Massachusetts since passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993.
Now is it clear: Parents, elected representatives, school committee members and teachers appear to have been largely bypassed in the initial process of adopting the Common Core state standards.
Educational policy is too important to be decided this way. It ignores the very heart of the democratic process, and the value of thoughtful, deliberative, inclusive planning. As parents, we should be very concerned.
As a parent and School Committee member, I believe many questions still need to be answered:
How much local control of education do we lose to a nationalized-educational curriculum? Have the Common Core standards been piloted to show they work? Are the present Massachusetts educational standards (using the MCAS as a benchmark) better or at least equal to the Common Core? How much will this new standard cost the Massachusetts taxpayers (estimates are over $15 billion)? What kind of tests will be required as a result of the implementation of the Common Core? How are our disadvantaged or higher achieving students affected by this change in standards? What will the impact be on our teachers?
There is a secondary impact of the Race to the Top money. In 2012, there was a change in federal educational privacy law. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education website ( http://www.doe.mass.edu) a significant share of the Race to the Top money awarded to Massachusetts mandate enhanced data collection activities about our students. As parents, we should ask ourselves, “What type of questions are our students being asked? How much of this student data will be shared with the federal or state government? Do we want this data collected or shared?”
I have long believed that education is a state and local responsibility. As a member of the Worcester School Committee, I believe it is my job to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that curriculum is developed or chosen by our state and/or local authority.
Parents have the right to know what is happening with their child’s education. It seems that Common Core is yet another reform being pushed through too quickly with too many potential costs and lifelong learning consequences (remember Whole Language?).
Neither parents nor educators had a truly effective opportunity to study the standards, to enable them to exercise an informed and persuasive voice in the process or decision, prior to their adoption. Some Catholic and other private schools are also implementing the Common Core. As parents, we need to understand what we gain or lose with this decision.
A forum titled “Can Common Core Standards Make Massachusetts Students Competitive?” will take place at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem St., in Worcester from 6:30 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, May 28. It is free and open to the public. The forum features English Language Arts curriculum author Sandra Stotsky and cost and accountability expert Ted Rebarber.
I encourage Massachusetts’ parents, members of school committees, state representatives and teachers to attend this one-time forum. Don’t be left in the dark.
Donna Colorio is an educator at Quinsigamond Community College and serves on the Worcester School Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This op ed was published at Telegram.com and is republished with permission from Donna Colorio. http://www.telegram.com/article/20130522/NEWS/105229940/0/SEARCH&Template=printart
The forum mentioned in the article was filmed and viewable online.
USA Today has published an op-ed by Emmett McGroarty. The author quotes Alisa Ellis of Utah and Anne Gassel of Missouri, parents who typify the Mama and Papa bears in opposing Common Core.
From Alisa Ellis: “Administrators want parents like me to step back and be quiet, but we will not. These are my children, and my voice will be heard.”
From Anne Gassel: “Parents and their legislators were cut out of the loop. Even now we can’t get straight answers.”
McGroarty also writes that “Although Common Core is regularly described as “state-led,” its authors are private entities, which are not subject to sunshine laws, open meetings or other marks of a state-led effort.”
The author also points out that the federal government gave states the incentive to adopt the Common Core and to use aligned, federally funded standardized tests which, “with teacher evaluations geared to them, will act as an enforcement mechanism.”
McGroarty points out that Bill Gates has told the National Conference of State Legislatures that this is more than minimal standards: “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well — and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching.”
Lastly, McGroarty points out that while Common Core developers claim the standards are “research and evidence based,” “rigorous” and “internationally bench-marked,” that’s not true:
He quotes Professor Sandra Stotsky, a member of the official Common Core validation committee, who wrote that the English standards of Common Core actually “weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” He also quotes Stanford professor James Milgram who concluded that the math standards “are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades eight to 12,” and who also wrote that Common Core math doesn’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry or second-year algebra course.
Read the rest of the article here: http://m.usatoday.com/article/news/2413553
Thank you, Emmett McGroarty, for pointing out the awful, hidden truth about Common Core, and for supporting parents in our quest to reclaim authority over what our own children will learn in our local schools.
I used to think of Alaska as one of the hero holdouts, because that state, along with Texas, Virginia, others, once flatly rejected Common Core. I remember reading with a mixture of awe and envy, how Alaska had opted out of the standards project in June 2009.
An Alaska Dept. of Ed spokesman, Eric Fry had once explained in a Heartland.org article that “We wanted to formulate our own plan… [Alaska] “would like to be the entity that declares its own standards.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards
That was then. This is now.
Alaska has now succumbed to the federal pressure and has officially and quite enthusiastically jumped into the nationalized education control trap.
Alaska will no longer be “the entity that declares its own standards.”
How did it happen? Well, Alaska decided to join the Common Core testing group called Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
Membership in SBAC demands that Alaska obey the decisions made by other, “governing” and “lead” states of the SBAC.
Of course, there was no vote by the Alaska legislature to decide to join Common Core. It’s an underhanded business, education reform. And what does it mean?
If you read the “Cooperative Agreement” between the SBAC and the Dept. of Ed, you will learn that despite the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and GEPA law, the SBAC members have agreed to obey every whim of the Department of Education and must:
“Provide updated, detailed work plans and budgets for all major activities identified in the recipient’s application, including but not limited to:
• development, quality control, use and validation of artificial intelligence for scoring;
• selection of a uniform growth model consistent with test purpose, structure, and intended uses;
• development of performance tasks (addressing items such as technical challenges of scoring, reliability, and large-scale administration of performance-based items);
• development of a research and evaluation agenda (addressing items such as validity, reliability, and fairness);
• development and delivery of the technology platform for assessment.
3) Actively participate in any meetings and telephone conferences with ED staff to discuss (a) progress of the project, (b) potential dissemination of resulting non-proprietary products and lessons learned, (c) plans for subsequent years of the project, and (d) other relevant information, including applicable technical assistance activities conducted or facilitated by ED or its designees, including periodic expert reviews, and collaboration with the other RTTA recipient.
4) Be responsive to requests from ED for information about the status of the project, project implementation and updated plans, outcomes, any problems anticipated or encountered, and future plans for the assessment system, including by providing such information in writing when requested.
5) Comply with, and where applicable coordinate with the ED staff to fulfill, the program requirements established in the RTTA Notice Inviting Applications and the conditions on the grant award, as well as to this agreement, including, but not limited to working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis…” (page 3, Cooperative Agreement.)
But citizens of Alaska are speaking out.
An Alaska economist, Dr. Barbara Haney, put together the following list of questions:
1)What elected officials were involved in the process to opt into SBAC?
1a) Upon what authority did the state of Alaska put our state’s education system under the authority of the state of Washington and the SBAC consortium? Doesn’t this violate the Alaska Constitution?
1b) Isn’t SBAC an example of an Agenda 21 style regional board? In fact, isn’t this agenda 21?
2) Isn’t it true that the real reason that SOA entered into agreement with SBAC is to get the RTTT money and the NCLB waiver? How much money exactly are we getting from RTTT? To whom will those funds be disbursed?
3)The Race to the Top grant defines College and Career read as follows:
According to the USDOE “College- and career-ready standards: Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.”
In other words, if you adopt the common core standards, you have career ready standards.
How do these new standards meet the needs of Alaska’s employers? (Specific references, specific industries, not platitudes). What career codes in Alaska’s economy are these standards keyed to? How does the SBAC test demonstrate this to Alaskan employers? How do these standards fit in with Alaska’s Manpower forecasts by AKDOL?
4) “Smarter Balanced is grounded in the notion that putting good information about student performance in the hands of teachers can have a profound impact on instruction and—as a result—on student learning.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html
Isn’t this teaching to the test?
Further, if that is so, then how will Alaska students perform well on the Common Core curriculum tests if they are not using the common core curriculum?
Isn’t this just the state’s way of bullying local districts into adopting the common core curriculum?
5) Another statement by SBAC to the State of MO in May 14, 2013 “This spring we are pilot testing the first 5,000 items and tasks we have developed with about a million students, engaging more than 5,200 schools drawn from all 21 of our governing states. The pilot test also serves as a beta test for our test delivery software. In addition to testing out our items, performance tasks, and software, the pilot test also gives us an opportunity to evaluate a variety of accessibility features for students with disabilities and English language learners.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html
Why is the state of Alaska not looking at established tests like ITBS and the ACT? Why are we using a test that doesn’t exist yet? Why are we using an experimental test?
How can SOA even argue that this is a test superior to other tests when the test hasn’t even been used anywhere?
Why was this test selected rather than ASPIRE, ITBS, or Alaska’s past NCLB test? Since that test is written for Alaska why couldn’t we continue to use it?
6) When SBAC was asked about their own cost structure on May 14, 2013 own cost structure, they stated:
“One element dominates the cost: approximately 70 percent of the vendor cost for summative assessments is tied to hand-scoring. Measuring the deeper learning required by the Common Core requires that students write extensively and much of that writing cannot yet be scored by technology. Paying teachers, faculty, and other content experts to score student responses is costly, but it is currently the only effective way to measure important elements of the Common Core.”
a) will Alaska Teachers be employed to grade Alaskan students?
b) isn’t this essentially what the original Alaska Test went to SBA testing? Didn’t we leave SBA testing due to this cost and alleged capricious nature of the grading system?
c) How then is the writing SBAC actually cheaper than the Digitcorp writing test?
Isn’t it true that SOA adopted this for the NCLB waiver and not because it is a superior test?
How does this test then become a superior instrument of evaluating student success?
7) In the area of English Language Arts (ELA), Smarter Balanced places these capabilities within its claims for both writing and for speaking and listening. In rural village schools there are some English speaking conventions are radically different from those in the roadway system. There is no way to avoid the obvious outcome that this test could discriminate against certain ethnic groups.
Has there been any effort to prepare these schools in speaking? Further, given that Hanley’s office indicates these schools will likely have a paper & pencil version of the test, how will the speaking component be evaluated?
8) SBAC funding ends Sept. 2014. In their comments to the state of MO on May 14, 2013, SBAC stated:
“At the conclusion of the federal grant, Smarter Balanced will transition to being an operational assessment system supported by its member states. The consortium does not plan to seek additional funds from the U.S. Department of Education.” http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/by-the-company-it-keeps-smarter-balanced.html
How much will Alaska be expected to commit in the future of their funds? How does this break out on a per pupil basis (Vermont was told it would be $300 per student for the test alone). Where will this money come from?
Why did the state submit the members of the state to a new taxing authority?
Given Governor Parnell’s commitment to SB21 (now signed) and the short term revenue fall, where will the revenue come from in 2014 to pay for SBAC?
9) Pioneer Institute study on implementation show a staging acceleration in costs of SBAC. On average the costs are 4 times the amount given by the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant monies.
Will Borough Governments be expected to pay a share to SBAC? If so, have borough governments been informed for budgetary purposes?
How much will property taxes have to increase to meet these costs?
10) According to a CRESST study by UCLA & CA Board of Regents of SBAC and PARC dated May 2013 at http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf, page 9, second column, states
“Smarter Balanced plans to refine its specifications as it develops items and tasks, a contract for item development has been established, and item and task development are currently underway, as is a contract for specifying the test blueprint (see http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balancedassessments/ for the preliminary blueprints).
Why did the state of Alaska sign on to a test that is not yet written or tested? When there are clearly other tests available that are cheaper (by SBAC’s own admission) and comparable (according the Washington States’ OWN Washington Policy Center), why are we going with this far more expensive assessment?
11) The CRESST Report by UCLA on page 10 states, “However, collaboration may be incorporated into Smarter Balanced performance tasks, and metacognition may well be required in solving the complex, extended problems that both consortia plan as part of their performance task components.”
The use of group answers is a radical departure in Alaska State testing. How will group answers be used in scoring individual students? Will Alaska students be denied a diploma because they did not pass a group answer? Has the use of group answers been vetted in national testing norms? How will group answers be received by parents? Why does SOA DOE feel the use of group answers to be a superior measure of student performance over traditional methods of assessing individual students?
12) The CRESST Study further states on page 18 http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf
Both consortia have been optimistic about the promise of automated constructed-response and performance task scoring and have incorporated that optimism into their cost estimates for the summative assessment. Both are estimating summative testing costs at roughly $20 per student for both subject areas. In the absence of promised breakthroughs, those costs will escalate, there will be enormous demands on teachers and/or others for human scoring, and the feasibility of timely assessment results may be compromised.
(My note: Optimistic is academic way of saying full of excrement…) How will these escalating costs be met by the state of Alaska, particularly given that the full results of SB21 may not be realized?
13) Continuing on page 17: http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf the study states
“In addition to costs, extended performance tasks also offer a challenge in assuring the comparability of scores from one year to the next. Without comparable or equitable assessments from one year to the next, states’ ability to monitor trends and evaluate performance may be compromised.”
What this is saying that that this years scores cannot be compared to last years score (of course, there is no test yet either). So if there is no ability to make time series comparisons, how can you tell if a school is doing better or worse over time? This is a radical departure from past assessments used by SOA where there has been some degree of comparability over time. How can a school then look at last years results and this years results to measure improvement?
14) Continuing on page 19 of the CRESST Study http://www.cse.ucla.edu/products/reports/R823.pdf states specifically that SBAC is going against the grain of deeper learning assessments in their methodology.
“For example, Smarter Balanced content specifications include a relatively large number of assessment targets for each grade—on average 29 targets in mathematics and 35 targets in ELA. The claims, in contrast, reflect a reasonable number of major learning goals and represent the broad competencies that students need for college and career readiness. History suggests that focusing on discrete, individual standards is not the way to develop deeper learning, yet this is the strategy that states, districts, schools, and teachers have typically followed.”
Why is the State of Alaska then using an assessment of “deeper learning” that is designed in a way that history has shown will not reflect that deeper learning? Further, how will the curriculum used in schools reflect the acquisition of this deeper learning?
15) The CRESST Study on page 19 states, “Smarter Balanced has been very transparent in posting all of its plans and the results of its contracts. Yet, because its computer adaptive testing approach essentially individualizes test items to every student, it may be difficult to ascertain how well deeper learning is represented for every student or overall. The test blueprint will provide rules for item selection and presumably, those rules will include those for representing higher levels of depth of knowledge, but this is yet to be seen.”
If test questions are not the same for each student, then how can results be compared across students? Further, since the adaptive technology for the test does not yet exist, why is the state investing in it? Doesn’t this represent a radical departure from the traditional type of test given in SOA? Why does the state want to engage in this experimental test over other proven testing methods?
16) Many of the state’s schools do not have the equipment to offer this test on line. Who will be paying the cost of upgrading the school computer lines? Software? Computers? The purchase of additional computers?
The test hasn’t been field tested, validated, or normed. The test will not offer a result that is comparable from one year to a next for a given institution. The adaptive technology isn’t available yet. Many of the districts in Alaska do not have the technology to offer this test. The Consortium is out of money in Sept. 2014.The test is using a strategy that has been shown to reflect the sort of knowledge it claims to test (deeper learning). The $20.00 per test estimate is considered overly optimistic and costs are expected to escalate. In contrast, there are instruments that have been validated that have a certain cost. Further, as the study states on page 18 “… while built-in accommodations may be easier to accomplish, there will still be the validity challenge of establishing the comparability of accommodated and non-accommodated versions of the test.”
17) Further, if the state is not using the Core Curriculum, then why are we using an assessment that reflects the core curriculum?
Great questions. Thank you, Dr. Haney.
Good luck, Alaska.
The Federal government is altering America and shrinking liberty so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with all the destruction. Much of it is connected to education reforms.
There’s the removal of local control of education via Common Core tests/standards. There’s the removal of parental consent via the 50 federally placed (paid-for) State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS and P-20) which track all children and from which no student can opt out. There’s Obamacare and its mandate to support abortion, and its related plot to increase the numbers of medical facilities that are in public schools. There’s the IRS/FBI assault on privacy, which violates our Constitutional right not to be subject to unlawful searches and seizures and which plays in to the SLDS/P-20 tracking. There’s Obama’s ConnectEd Initiative, which taxes phone bills to pay for Common Core testing technology nationally, regardless of how any of us feel about the unvetted Common Core. But all of this is old news.
Today I learned that Obama is “redesigning” all high schools.
Here’s the link. http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-redesigning-americas-high-schools
In part, the redesigning will “promote a rethinking of the high school learning experience” by using more “student-centered learning,” using more “wrap-around support services,” provide “career-related competencies,” doing “project-or-problem-based learning” do “structured work-based learning,” “redesigning school calendars,” and “expanding a comprehensive system of student support.”
It’s central planning. The “wraparound support services” were described by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the interview below. Arne wants 6-7 days a week of school. He wants schools to be the center of society, rather than families being the center of society. He is a socialist.
Are we all?